The Hot Seat: Judy Greer
The indie vet stars in a new sitcom. Also, babies scare her.
Tue Mar 29 2011
Illustration: Dan Park
RECOMMENDED: Full list of Hot Seat interviews
Your new sitcom, Mad Love, takes place in New York. Have you ever lived here?
Well, only for almost a year. I was doing a television show that shot in New York, and when that was over I stayed and did a play at Second Stage. I stayed in this really cute apartment in the West Village and it was awesome. Everyone was like, Try being in New York when you're broke, it's not as awesome.
But you've at least got some experience with what it's like to be a New Yorker.
I did feel like, having spent time in New York, I was a little bit more informed, but I don't know. I always think you can kind of tell with New Yorkers. Sometimes people are like, Oh, I thought you were from New York, and it's the biggest compliment I could ever get, but then New Yorkers are like, Yeah, no, you're not a New Yorker at all.
I've lived here for ten years and people tell me I'm not a New Yorker yet.
Yeah, you're like, What do I have to do?!?
Maybe you just have to be comfortable with yelling at random strangers on the street or a cabbie who almost runs you down.
I'm way too Midwestern for that.
Mad Love is a more traditional sitcom than the shows you've usually done; was that a conscious choice?
I had been looking to do a sitcom for a really long time, and all these other awesome jobs kept popping up. I'm always looking for good material, and I never really care what form it's in. So I really loved the script of Mad Love, and I thought it might be nice to have a more steady job—not that television is even that predictable anymore, but if this show is a success, I could have a job for a couple years and know where I'm going to work every day. That would be totally different for me, because I've been here for about 12 or 13 years now, and you're like a carny worker. So yeah, it was conscious; I wanted to see what it's like to have a normal life. As normal as an actor can have, I guess.
On the show, you and Sarah Chalke play best friends, and you have a really believable chemistry. Did you know each other before this?
Yes, totally. We did a job together a few years ago. When this came up, and Sarah was already cast, and I was just like, I'll do anything to work with my friend every day.
Your character, Connie, is really devoted to Sarah's character, Kate, and plans wacky parties for her and stuff—have you done that for your friends?
I definitely hosted my friend Kelly's surprise party at my house, and I've hosted a baby shower, but I haven't gone to the extent that Connie does for Kate with these parties every single year.
It seems like an elaborate thing to do for a friend.
I don't have that kind of stamina! I'm a sprinter. [Laughs]
The show has more of an ensemble cast, but you do often play BFF-type roles. What's the secret to playing a good best bud?
I try to bring something special that's maybe happening in my own life at that moment to the character. I try not to think of them as a best friend all the time, like, Oh, I'm the sidekick role, because then sometimes it bums me out. It's not really like that, but it is, like, "always a bridesmaid...." Being a bridesmaid's fun, though, 'cause you can drink more, and it doesn't really matter if you don't remember the whole wedding. [Laughs]
What's it like to work with all the babies on Mad Love?
Matt Tarses [the show's creator] was really clear about it; he said, "You have to be really good at your job; that's one thing about Connie, she's a great nanny," and I was like, Shit, because I don't know how to take care of kids in a great way. I can keep them from dying. That's the most challenging part of this job for me, having to seem like I know what I'm doing. And all the different kids look the same; they're so cute, but after a while I can't tell the difference. They're all matching babies.
How do you get along with them?
You know how they say animals can tell if you like them or not? I think children can tell that they freak me out. But there's this one that's so cute, and he seems to like me; he actually like put his arms up to me once for me to pick him up and hold him, and he rested his head on my shoulder. I made our prop guy take, like, a thousand pictures, because I was like, "Look, there's a baby that likes me and wants me to hold it!"
The cast of your new movie, Peep World, is pretty great, too—you worked with Rainn Wilson and Michael C. Hall. What was that like?
Oh, it was so awesome. There was a lot of tweeting going on; I don't tweet or twitter or whatever. But when I was in a room with all those actors and all different types of people and different careers, different ages, different everything, and all of us were so into making an awesome movie. I was like, Man, you can get a room full of actors and it can be not awesome. [Laughs] Everyone was having fun and so professional and so supportive. It felt like a dysfunctional family.
It's a sort of uncomfortable movie to watch, with all the fighting going on.
Yeah, having fun with it was something I didn't expect at all.
You've ended up on a lot of TV series or in films that have become cult classics—obviously Arrested Development, but also things like Jawbreaker....
That is an accident! But I know, right?
Archer [the FX animated series on which Greer voices Cheryl] seems to be going in that direction too—it's an interesting coincidence.
It is! And I feel so lucky. All three of those jobs have happened absolutely by accident. I just feel like, Wow, who knew? It's like when the stars collide, or those stupid inspirational posters: "When something meets opportunity..." You know what I mean?
Mad Love airs Mondays at 8:30pm on CBS.